Few things make people jump — either in excitement or terror — more reliably than the sound of a doorbell.
Who’s on the other side of the door? Are they friendly or hostile? And what could they want from you?
In honor of the release this week of Darren Aronofsky’s thriller “mother!” — in which a young wife (Jennifer Lawrence) appears to become unglued with the arrival of strangers (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) — here are seven movies (listed chronologically) where an unexpected houseguest or two scrambled the routines of the residents inside.
1. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
Sheldon Whiteside (Monty Woolley), a sharp-tongued New York radio personality on a speaking tour, slips on the ice in front of a middle-class Ohio family’s home, then demands the family let him stay there to recuperate. Whiteside then proceeds to wreak havoc on the family, the Stanleys, with his advice and demands — while his long-suffering assistant, Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis), starts to fall for a local journalist, Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis). Adapted from the Moss Hart/George S. Kaufman play, the movie is the prototype for all satires of elitist-vs.-Middle America.
2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
A recently betrothed couple, Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) and Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick), suffer a flat tire on a rainy night and seek shelter and a telephone in a nearby castle. Little do they know that the castle is home to the maniacal Dr. Frank N. Furter, the “sweet transvestite” from the planet of Transsexual, and his latest creation, the hunky Rocky (Peter Hinwood). How does this rock ’n’ roll send-up of ’50s monster movies play out? You’ll just have to endure the antici-[SAY IT!]-pation.
3. Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)
Director Paul Mazursky adapts the 1932 French farce “Boudu Saved From Drowning” in this comedy. Nick Nolte stars as Jerry, a homeless man who tries to kill himself by jumping into a swimming pool — and is fished out by an unhappily married wealthy couple, the Whitemans (Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler). Jerry’s presence has an oddly enchanting effect on the Whitemans (is that name a little on-the-nose?) in Mazursky’s sly social satire.
4. To Sleep With Anger (1990)
A married couple, Gideon (Paul Butler) and Suzie (Mary Alice), welcome Harry (Danny Glover), an old friend from the South, into their home in south-central Los Angeles. Harry is a trickster, albeit a charming one, and his presence disrupts the family — particularly Gideon and Suzie’s younger son, Samuel (Richard Brooks). The first larger-budget film by independent filmmaker Charles Burnett (who just was named a recipient of a Governor’s Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), and possibly the best performance of Glover’s long career.
5. The Last Supper (1995)
When a veteran of Desert Storm (Bill Paxton) helps a grad student (Ron Eldard) in a jam, the student and his equally liberal housemates (Cameron Diaz, Annabeth Gish, Jonathan Penner, Courtney B. Vance) invite the ex-soldier in for dinner. When they learn he’s a racist Holocaust denier, the evening turns violent and the students accidentally kill the guy. The students decide to invite other guests with right-wing leanings, poison them and bury the bodies in their increasingly fertile tomato garden. Director Stacy Title’s social satire doesn’t hold up particularly well, but the ensemble of victims — Mark Harmon, Charles Durning, Jason Alexander and Ron Perlman — is impressive.
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is annoyed when the old wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) tricks the hobbit into hosting a party for a group of dwarves, who are messy and toss around Bilbo’s dishes. But Bilbo becomes intrigued when Gandalf recruits him to be the “burglar” in the dwarves’ plot to retrieve their ancestral treasure from the dragon Smaug. Too bad it took Peter Jackson three drawn-out movies to tell this story, the prequel to “The Lord of the Rings.”
7. The Gift (2015)
Actor Joel Edgerton made a powerful directing debut in this unsettling thriller, which starts when a married couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), relocate to Los Angeles and run into Gordo (Edgerton), one of Simon’s old high-school classmates. Gordo drops by unexpectedly with gifts, which amuses Robyn but annoys Simon. The deeper the story goes, the more Robyn learns about Simon and Gordo in school, and finds it harder to know whom she can trust.